It was in his third essay on Poe, which formed the preface to his second volume of translations of Poe (1857), that Baudelaire engaged in detail with Poe’s critical outlook, citing many of the views expressed in Poe’s essay .
Once again, Baudelaire stresses how Poe was at odds with, and sought escape from, the values of his bourgeois world: “From the midst of a greedy world, hungry for material things, Poe took flight in dreams.” For Poe, however, these dreams were “the only realities.” Stifled by this oppressive atmosphere, says Baudelaire, Poe “pours out his scorn and disgust for democracy, progress and , 120).
Baudelaire notes that for Poe, “Imagination is the queen of faculties.” What is interesting, however, is that the definition of imagination offered by Baudelaire is not Poe’s but his own, implying a system of correspondences that is not formulated in Poe’s work: “Imagination is an almost divine faculty which perceives immediately and without philosophical methods the inner and secret relations of things, the correspondences and the analogies” ( Baudelaire further developed his ideas of the imagination, saying that this “queen of faculties . the strongest weapon in our battles with the ideal is a fine imagination with a vast store of observations at its disposal” (, 182).
Hence, even though truth and morality are rigidly expelled by Poe and Baudelaire from the province of the aesthetic, they are effectively subsumed under the control of the very power which creates the aesthetic, the power of imagination.
Notwithstanding his lifestyle and his artistic views, Baudelaire was a believer in original sin, and was deeply repelled by the commercialism of the modern world, which he regarded as a fallen world.
In his depraved,” and ridiculed the idea of progress.5 He saw progress as possible only within the individual; he affirmed the importance of ultimate questions concerning the purpose of human existence, and was profoundly antipathetic to bourgeois values, describing commerce as “in its very essence, , 69).In general, the French symbolists, including Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé, reacted against the explicit rationalism, materialism, and positivism of the bourgeois world and, like the Romantics, exalted the role of poet and artist.Baudelaire’s ideas about beauty may have been inspired by the German philosopher Schelling, and from 1852 he was also deeply influenced by Poe (though he arrived independently at many of his analogous insights), and shared his views on poetic autonomy and the poetic imagination.Known as the founder of French symbolism (though not himself part of the movement), and often associated with the artistic decadence and aestheticism of the later nineteenth century, Baudelaire was born in Paris where he lived a bohemian life, adopting the artistic posture of a dandy, devoted to beauty and disdainfully aloof from the vulgar bourgeois world of materialism and commerce, as well as the pose of the , frequenter and consumer of the city streets. Baudelaire’s famous or infamous collection of poems, ), was published in 1857 and became the subject of a trial for obscenity in the same year for including some lesbian poems.Baudelaire is often credited with expressing one of the first modernistic visions, a vision of the sordidness, sensuality, and corruption of city life, a disposition that profoundly influenced modernist writers such as T. Baudelaire contracted syphilis and was paralyzed by a stroke before his death.His famous sonnet is a succinct expression of his symbolist aesthetic, seeing the material world as a “forest of symbols” pointing to an ideal world.This alleged system of correspondences was a common idea in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; it could be seen as a gesturing of the factual toward the ideal (and truly real) or as a synaesthetic correspondence between the data of the various senses such as sight, sound, and touch., which were reviews of yearly exhibitions at the Louvre museum.In general, Baudelaire’s criticism moves toward an aesthetic of modernity, which might also be called a symbolist aesthetic that both distinguishes itself somewhat from Romanticism (in its views of imagination and nature) and anticipates certain dispositions of modernism.Baudelaire had little sympathy with any endeavor toward an objective criticism.In his he insisted that “the best criticism is that which is amusing and poetic; not a cold, mathematical criticism which… the question was settled, and art was thereafter inseparable from morality and utility” (, 60).